From metalcore to technical death metal, these are albums I truly think stand out above the rest. Albums that I listen to on a regular basis because they’re original, executed well or even both. They may not be front-to-back perfect and they may not be for everyone, and perhaps many of you will find that you disagree. Nevertheless, these are albums I think people should at least give a listen.
Week 3! Going to try to make my reviews shorter so that I can get my opinion across with less words. Anyway, week 3 brings me to my favorite metalcore album of all time: Controller. Probably the most “mainstream” album I’ve done so far for this weekly column, but I never said it had to be unknown. Originally, Misery Signals was a thumbs down from me when I heard their 2006 album. Something about it just reeked of generic metalcore. Then when I heard this album was being produced by the legendary Devin Townsend, I knew I had to give them a second shot. And boy am I glad I did.
From the git-go you’re met with the thundering sound of this album. Pounding constantly, the first two songs are nothing short of angry and aggressive, showing you what these guys can do to pummel your face. From my description, it sounds like typical metalcore, but rest assured that Misery Signals play a much more distinguishable type. The contrasting guitar work consisting of low and heavy riffs with bright, melodic leads is truly phenomenal and captures an atmosphere unparalleled that goes on for the entire CD. The icing on the cake is the Karl’s vast growl/yell mix and the wall of sound production. Some may find the layered vocals to be an annoyance, but he fits perfectly with the booming soundscape. In short, the album is very thick and bass heavy. Leave it to Devin to turn good things into great things. The production of the guitars can be a little weak at times, but as a collective everything works together to really give you a behemoth sound. Nitpicking the sound of each instrument should be avoided here as its amalgamated form is truly what matters.
The songwriting is as close to progressive metalcore as you can get without venturing into the realm of Between the Buried and Me. Perhaps it’s a bit of a stretch to call them progressive metalcore, but there are tons of prog hints here. Regardless, the execution is flawless. Aggressive sections, melodic passages and great ambiances really gives you the impression they studied their metalcore 101. Even the tempo transitions are fluid. If this wasn’t enough, they actually do breakdowns properly. Yes, I know, it’s crazy, but trust me. They are not everywhere and don’t happen without the song developing first. Metaphorically, they hit the nail on the head.
If there are any drawbacks, it might be that the wall of sound production gets tedious and/or annoying for some and that the songs tend to sound the same. The latter is all a matter of familiarity, though, as you will soon find that you can pick out any track after a few listens, mainly because of Karl. His delivery is powerful but perfect. You’ll find that a lot of his lines are extremely memorable. I find myself randomly shouting, “Let’s make history STOP!” all the time. In my humble opinion, though, the album has very few problems and I can listen to it front-to-back any day of the week without wanting to turn it off.
In summary, this is metalcore at its finest. The reverberating production may turn some off, but this is an album and production is part of the process. Controller is a remarkably beautiful yet angry release (see “Reset“, “Homecoming“) that really sets a standard for metalcore.
Check out their music video for “A Certain Death“, featuring a great balance of melody and anger, angular riffs in the first breakdown and some angelic singing in its conclusion: